The Ingredients for Life in Space

this week we as a species learn two important things about the building blocks of life where they're lacking and where they could appear at any moment I'm Hank green welcome to scishow News this week a team of British and American scientists made a simple sounding discovery that has some pretty big implications they found that amino acids the organic compounds that make up proteins which controlled many biological functions can occur just about anywhere in the solar system which means that live could potentially form anywhere in the same way that having the ingredients to make tomato sauce means that Pizza could form anywhere in Sunday's edition of the journal Nature Geoscience the researchers said that by firing projectiles through a high speed gun at an icy surface they imitated a comet hitting an icy planet the impacts shock and heat caused simple molecules like water and carbon dioxide to form more complicated molecules like glycine alanine and ISO valine amino acids now to be clear this is just one step up in complexity from water and carbon dioxide but it is a difficult step the next step would mean even more complex molecules like proteins and then cell structures and then cells etc until you've got bears and aardvarks and Emma Watson so even though amino acids are called the building blocks of life they're really more like the building blocks of the building blocks but if cosmic impacts can make them then they could theoretically exist any place where comets with water eyes can crash into something in fact the scientists speculate amino acids could have first formed on earth because of such an impact yes it may be even likelier than we thought that these acids could form on icy worlds like Europa and Enceladus which means that there is hope for life elsewhere in the solar system just not on Mars at least for now because this week NASA made it doubly official that there is no methane another potential indicator for life on Mars to be fair the Viking Lander told us this in the 1970s but in the last decade or so scientists have been questioning Vikings findings some researchers reported detecting what looked like plumes of methane and Mars's atmosphere but ever since curiosity has been wheeling around trying to get the record straight it's gotten some confusing results you might remember me telling you last fall about some potentially earth-shaking findings from curiosity sample analysis when it seemed it detect a methane compound that's created by certain kinds of earth bacteria but then curiosity measured again and detected no methane at all so scientists thought the initial findings were a result of Martian chlorine reacting with earth born carbon that was still inside the instrument now there are some things that you want to be absolutely sure about and whether or not there's life on Mars is one of them so NASA used another instrument aboard curiosity the tunable laser spectrometer which was specifically designed for measuring methane and in Thursday's edition of the journal science they reported measuring less than 1.3 parts per billion by volume that is a very very small amount and even that amount scientists say probably came from somewhere other than Mars originally the methane that curiosity brought with it for example will take at least a few years to disappear so definitively there is not enough methane to suggest life on Mars but don't be disheartened no methane does not necessarily mean no life it just means no life as we currently know it on earth and wouldn't finding a whole new flavor of life in the solar system be infinitely cooler anyway thanks for watching this episode of scishow news if you have a tip for us or there's something in the news that you'd like us to understand better you can contact us on Facebook or Twitter or down in the comments below and don't forget to go to and subscribe